An enhancement of the Boundless partnership between Hartford Public Library and Hartford Public Schools boosted participation in summer learning this year in the city by nearly 300%, with more than 1,000 children and teens registering for the program with the library.

The success is an expansion of the existing Boundless partnership that has deepened connections between the city’s schools and with the goal of improving literacy rates for Hartford students and enhanced learning and academic outcomes, explained Denise Martens, Hartford Public Library’s Assistant Director of Youth & Family Services:

“We are thrilled to see this huge increase in the use of HPL resources by the city’s children, teens, and families!” she said. “This is evidence that the Boundless partnership works to support learning in the city during the summer when we know about the impact of ‘the summer slide’ that is now being magnified by the pandemic.”

This year, Hartford Public Schools and the Hartford Public Library collaborated on creating summer reading lists segmented by grade level, with many titles available in both hard copy and digital formats and made easily accessible to students.

Will Bailey, Hartford Public Library Technical Services Director, said the library worked with its vendors during the 2020-2021 school year to grant access to its ebook collections through the school system’s online learning platform, Clever. The BookFlix database of ebooks was extremely popular and resulted in an increase of 50,000 uses throughout the school year.

For summer learning, the library was able to offer a wide variety of reading materials for all grade levels through its Overdrive and Axis 360 platforms, he said.

The theme of this year’s summer learning program was “What Colors Your World?” and a combination of outdoor and online activities were offered, including jewelry making, double Dutch, musical performances and virtual story times.

Students were encouraged to read at least 20 minutes a day and complete bingo cards that included squares like “Read with a friend or relative” or “Read a book with poems” as well as nonreading activities like “Learn a new skill” or “Help a family member” in order to win weekly prizes like books for their own personal collections.

This year’s program began June 21 and concluded August 21. Hartford students returned to school on Monday.

Last year’s virtual program drew about 350 participants, the same as 2019’s in-person program.

Image of Jasmin Aug 2021

Jasmin Agosto: Hartford History Center Education and Outreach Manager by day and Sageseeker Productions founder by night.

Artist always.

Congratulations on being named a 2021 Connecticut Arts Hero!

Thank you!

I think this means you get a superpower. What’s yours?

Well, if I was given this superpower as a kid it would have been to be able to fly or, by holding a book, gain all the knowledge inside it. But now? Now it would be to just by touching folks they gain all the resources and skills they need to build a good life. That’s my superpower.

It’s obvious how much you care about your community. We see it every day at the library.

My love for our community goes back to my childhood and my love for Hartford’s history was strengthened during my time at Trinity College. While I was there, I took a film class and in it we studied the films saved by Hartford activist Butch Lewis about Hartford in the year 1969. The films captured the politics, the diversity, the protests and the culture of that time. It was in that class I discovered the history they did not teach us in school, one where Black and Puerto Rican folks were at the center of it all. Years later when I began working at the history center at the library, one of my first assignments was to work on the Butch Lewis collection. I felt like I came full circle. Like I was right where I was supposed to be.

You started Sageseeker Productions to build community creative space for the Black and POC artists. What does art mean to you in your world?

Art for me is a space to break free from the systems, like capitalism, that we live within. Art allows us to think creatively, to ask questions, to push boundaries, and to express joy. It is powerful to share all of that with our community.

Is there any art recently you experience that has moved you in all those ways?

I’ve been reading a great novel Daughters of Stone by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa. It was given to me by my mom and it follows several generations of Puerto Rican women descending from Africa. I was particularly moved by the character Mati – a healer who uses her superpowers to free herself and her fellow community while gaining the land they were enslaved on and transforming it into a free collective commune. 

Reminds me of you. Speaking of superpowers. I believe there is a cape involved with this award?

Purple. Definitely purple.


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